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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Trump: BS or liar

Were the cues in Daniel Levitin's piece (Forget the tax returns, show me his brain scans. Boston Globe, February 21, 2017) strong enough to help us decide whether Donald Trump is a liar or a BS artist?

I think he is both.

At one level he tells one big lie: that the press and his opponents are liars purveying false facts. This is a strategic position taken to discredit any opposition.

At another level, he is a BS artist. He doesn't care what he says about immigrants, about Sweden, or about Russia as long as it creates a stir in the political ecosystem.

The BS is easy to deal with, but I do not know how we overcome the big lie.


Sent to Boston Globe

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Changes at the National Security Council

OPEd Metrowest Daily News


Organizing the White House

If I were an organizational advisor to the President, I would suggest that he takes a hard look at how he is running the White House and Cabinet. He is not taking the actions that will make things run effectively.

He seems to be maximizing groupthink.

The President would not let Secretary of State Tillerson appoint his own deputy because Tillerson's choice, Elliot Abrams had opposed him in the election. Just as Trump needs people he can trust, so does Tillerson.

A similar problem seems to have torpedoed the appointment of Admiral Harward to the post of National Security Advisor. It is reported that the Admiral was told that, if appointed, he would not be able to choose members of his staff. That and the current climate in the White House led him to reject the appointment.

If Mr. Trump is to achieve a well running administration, he must encourage and manage productive dissent -- dissent over issues, not interpersonal animosity. Mr. Trump himself is one who personalizes issues. His first task is self-restraint.

Alas, I am not hopeful.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Creativity at the MBTA

Congratulations to the MBTA (Buffeted by snow, MBTA workers found a new way forward. Boston Globe, February 18, 2017: A1). Congratulations to manager, Bill Walsh, for fostering a climate of creativity in  his unit. Congratulations to Bill Haywood for developing the idea of a tractor snow-blower.

This story illustrates the importance of keeping maintenance activities in-house as part of the MBTA. The problem lay with Operations, the solutions with Maintenance.

If the maintenance activities had been outsourced to a contractor, it is unlikely that the contractor would have had the information needed to identify the problem (though his is probably more likely with less visible problems than a giant snow storm). It is unlikely that the contractor would have the incentive to work on a solution to the problem.

For a solution to emerge, close coupling between operations and maintenance is essential. Let us not break that link.

Sent to Boston Globe

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Judge Gorsuch

What Judge Gorasuch should have said:

Mr. President, I am deeply appreciative of the honor that you wish to bestow upon me, but I cannot accept it.

For 11 years, I have been an officer of the court. For nine months, the Senate of the United States has held the Supreme Court in disrespect (and perhaps acted unconstitutionally). I cannot condone, or be party to, or benefit from that disrespect. You should nominate Judge Garland.

Thank you Mr. President.


Sent to Washington Post

Monday, January 30, 2017

Never repeat the lie

The first step in resisting President Trump is NEVER REPEAT THE LIE.

Repeating the lie reinforces the false framing of the issue. We must only speak truth about the issue so as to imbed an accurate framing in the minds of people.


Sent to New York Times

Friday, January 13, 2017

Canadian Border

To the Editor:

Your oped (Jan 13, 2017) focuses on the Mexican border. But the greater danger is to the North. In Canada, since the defeat of the regressive Harper government in 2015, a series of sensible ideas have been implemented; ideas that I am sure the Trumpeters would not want to see waft across the border.

They include a number of steps to enhance the use of evidence to underpin government policies. For example, the Canadian Government has revived the Long Form Census; the information available tin the Form was essential for the establishment of good social policy on resolving social ills like poverty and unemployment and to provide statistical benchmarks.. The Conservative Government abandoned the Long Form in 2010 so there is a gap in overage which makes longitudinal analysis problematic.

A second sign of an evidence based focus is the announcement that very soon, there will be a Chief Science advisor to the Canadian Government. The person appointed will make sure that sound science is pumped in to the policy making process. In addition, bench level scientists are now allowed to speak directly to the media - a practice banned by the Harper administration as well as our won Bush appointees.

In due course, these sensible changes will be adopted in the United States; but not, I fear under a Trump administration.

Sent to New York Times

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Trump's conflicts of interest

To  the Editor

In all the discussion about Mr. Trump's potential conflicts of interest with respect to the emoluments clause, commentators have been silent on one issue: the second part of the clause; the piece that says "without the consent of Congress."
What does this mean? Does it mean that at the start of Mr. Trump's term, Congress can give blanket consent to all emoluments from any source for the whole four year term? Or does it men that Congress will have to consent to each emolument as soon as it is deposited in one of Mr. Trump's personal or corporate bank accounts; if so, Congress will have no time for any other legislation. Or perhaps there is a middle ground with some emoluments receiving blanket permission while others have to be permitted individually. Where will the line be drawn?
Mr.Trump will be completely at the mercy of Congress due to the emoluments clause. Congress can grant permission for Mr. Trump to continue to receive these emoluments. However, if Mr. Trump puts forward populist legislation, like expanding Medicare, that offends the Republican grandees in Congress, they can withdraw this permission and place Mr. Trump in a position where he may be liable to impeachment. The usual checks and balances will have been blown away.
Perhaps Mr. Trump can avoid triggering the emoluments clause. An emolument is defined as a profit gained from services rendered. With some creative accounting, perhaps involving paying down debt, Mr. Trump could reduce the profits from his overseas activities to a very small amount and then assign those profits to the Federal government. Then there would be no need to gain the consent of Congress.


Sent to Boston Globe

Monday, January 2, 2017

Trump's populist agenda

To the Editor

It is unlikely that President Trump will be able to advance his populist agenda through Congress.

Mr.Trump will be completely at the mercy of Congress due to the emoluments clause. Congress can grant permission for Mr. Trump to continue to receive these emoluments.

However, if Mr. Trump puts forward populist legislation, like expanding Medicare, that offends the Republican grandees in Congress, they can withdraw this permission and place Mr. Trump in a position where he may be liable to impeachment.

The usual checks and balances will have been blown away.


Sent to Washington Post